Written By Culinary Pen on Wednesday, March 9, 2011 | 7:20:00 PM
I love corned beef. Straight up, with boiled cabbage, or on a Reuben. I've corned briskets and beef tongues, but wanted to keep trying new cuts of meats. Corned beef is typically thought of as Irish, but I always think of lamb when I think of meaty Irish entrees. So why not corned lamb? Lamb, by nature, is tender. If it wasn't, it would be hogget or mutton. But lamb shanks still keep a tough chewiness to them, so they seemed like an ideal candidate for the long saltwater brine-time required of corning.To start with, I prepared my favorite brine, which is straight out of the River Cottage Cookbook. It's salty, slightly sweet, and wonderfully spiced with clove and juniper. The shanks hung out in the brine from Tuesday morning to Sunday morning, then flushed in a change of cold water for a day. Afterwards, I braised the lamb in vegetable stock for about 3 hours. In the last 45 minutes I added the classics; cabbage, carrots, celery, potatoes, and onions.The result was interesting, tasty, and odd. The "lamby-ness" of the shanks went down, but the corning spices weren't as present as in a beef brisket. They tasted good - tender, savory, and evocative of allspice and herbs. But the eating wasn't an elevation. Corning brisket creates a dish greater than the sum of its parts. This was good, but it didn't make you feel that the extra effort was rewarded. Also, I missed the ropey texture of brisket. The short, dense muscles of the lamb made for fragmented chunks of chipped lamb. Delicious, but still short of the mark.